Obituary: Gustav W. Hedlund, 32-year resident, software engineer and entrepreneur
He was born in 1940 in Charlottesville, Virginia where his father was on the faculty at the University of Virginia. In 1948 he moved to New Haven, CT where his father took a position in the Yale Mathematics Department. Quoting from the brief biography Gus wrote for his 50th reunion of the Class of 62 at Yale University he said, that was where he “was faced with my first big academic challenge when I was placed in the dummy section of third grade”…After a three month struggle I managed to lift myself up and got promoted to the academically elite half of the class, perhaps the biggest honor of my life."
He maintained his focus during his undergraduate years at Yale, and always said that “after surviving an Electrical Engineering major at Yale” he then entered the work force at IBM where he became “an engineer for one day.”
“They were so impressed with my skills that I was transferred into software development, which made me feel that my Yale education was wasted”. In fact, the project that he worked on for two years was the nascient development of the IBM 360 computer , which fundamentally changed the architecture of computer systems for the future. He left IBM to work for consulting companies and “noticed that many software people were going out and starting their own companies. That was enough for me so I began the process of trying to start a company. My first attempt finished in abject failure as a couple of partners and I bid on a project that our employers were also bidding on. Well, our employer found out about this and the result was we all got fired but I did take a nice summer vacation that year. Our second attempt was more successful and we were able to found a firm that developed software for Wall Street firms.”
That company was Monchik Weber, and Gus was one of the four partners that created it, eventually growing to over 500 employees and creating the software systems for every major firm on Wall Street. He said that “the biggest downside was the exceedingly long hours required”, and after McGraw Hill bought the company, he immediately left with some other key personnel, at which point he created a second company. In 1984, he met another commuter on the tracks of Grand Central Station, waiting for the train -- the Metro North line was alternately delayed and shut down for hours during that evening rush hour, and two loquacious workers heading home began to talk. Marriage and babies soon followed, and an old house on a pond in Darien which would become home. Gus continued to work, but decided that pouring Cheerios for two little boys in the morning, and bringing them to their favorite fishing hole in the afternoons, was more important than adding to the asset spreadsheet.
His competitive nature needed outlets, and he became a longstanding member of the racing circuit on Long Island Sound with his first boat, custom built in Sweden, “Worthy Brooke”, named after his favorite grandfather’s racehorse on the tracks of Long Island. With his crew he participated in all of the important races, including the Vineyard Race, and numerous others where he regularly campaigned his boat.
In his undergraduate years he said “he should have received an advanced degree in intramural sports as I participated in everything from crew, touch football, tackle football,” and was a member of the Wall Street basketball league, until a bad knee injury eliminated his ability to compete on those courts. He transferred those sports enthusiasms to delight in bringing his sons to their many ice hockey and lacrosse games. A major Yale Hockey fan, he travelled to Pittsburgh to watch his favorite team compete in the National Championships.
It also gave him deep pleasure to listen to his daughter, Katharine play the Steinway grand piano that her grandfather had similarly played so many George Gershwin and Cole Porter songs in his own home for so many years. Beginning when the children were little, Gus captained his boat to our own Outward Bound excursions off the New England coast, taking his family to remote island s and historic ports from Connecticut to the coast of Maine, and as far “Down East” as Canada.
He found another conduit for all of his considerable energy with the New Canaan Exchange Club, where he was the Treasurer for close to a decade. But what the members of the club will always remember was his constant presence from late November until the end of December, where he comprehensively thought about every detail of their Tree Lot, selling Christmas trees to fund the club’s various philanthropies.
In his 60’s he came back to a childhood interest in Ham Radio, and met some wonderful new friends, also engineers and inventors, who shared this passion for the hobby. There was never a tradesman or visitor that showed up at his home that didn’t quizzically look up at the sky, at the complex web of wires his detailed calculations had devised to reach by radio every corner of the planet Earth. Typically, he found great satisfaction in Ham Radio contests, and again thrived on weekend long 24 hour a day contests with participants from around the world, more trophies, always winning.
He was a beautiful Swede who gave all of his energies to all that he cared about. Puttiing his prodigious intellect, agita and passion toward his work, retirement interests, and most of all, his family, that he dearly loved. He was a caretaker always, worrying about his children, paying the bills, thinking about all of us. His attentions and love did not reflect back on himself, and it impacted his health significantly enough that he left us all too soon.
In addition to his wife Patricia, he will be greatly missed by his first child, adopted during a prior marriage, Brandon Hedlund of North Carolina. He was predeceased by his son Gustav Andrew in 2008, which was the deepest hurt for him. His son Dirk William Hedlund and his daughter Katharine Louisa Hedlund, both of Memphi, Tennessee also survive their father. He will be loved by all of us “for infinity”.
A Memorial is scheduled for Saturday, October 29th at 10:30 AM at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on the Boston Post Road in Darien, CT. A reception immediately following the service will be at the Community Center on the grounds. The Exchange Club is naming their Christmas House in his honor on the day after Thanksgiving, when the tree lot opens at Kiwanis Park in New Canaan, CT in Gus’s honor. All of their funds support local families and citizens in our surrounding communities in need. A place of children and Christmas joy.
— by the Family